Neelakurinji (Strobilanthes kunthiana) is a unique flowering plant that is native to the Western Ghats region of India, including Munnar in Kerala. It is known for its striking purplish-blue flowers that bloom once every 12 years, creating a spectacular natural phenomenon.
Here are some key points about Neelakurinji:
- Blooming Cycle: Neelakurinji is a long-cycle bloomer, which means it flowers once in approximately 12 years. This phenomenon attracts nature enthusiasts and tourists from all over the world to witness the mass flowering.
- Blossoming Time: The last major blooming of Neelakurinji in Munnar occurred in 2018, and the next expected bloom is around 2030. The exact blooming period can vary slightly depending on climatic conditions and the specific location within the Western Ghats.
- Spectacular Sight: When Neelakurinji flowers bloom, they cover the hillsides in a carpet of purple, transforming the landscape into a breathtaking spectacle. The purplish-blue flowers, set against the greenery of the hills, create a mesmerizing view.
- Habitat: Neelakurinji grows at elevations between 1,500 and 2,500 meters (4,900 to 8,200 feet) above sea level. Munnar, with its high altitude and favorable climate, provides an ideal habitat for this unique plant species.
- Conservation Efforts: Due to its rarity and the long blooming cycle, Neelakurinji is classified as an endangered species. Conservation efforts are being made to protect its habitat and ensure the survival of the plant. National parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the Western Ghats, including Eravikulam National Park in Munnar, play a crucial role in preserving Neelakurinji and its ecosystem.
Visiting Munnar during the blooming season of Neelakurinji offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience to witness the beauty of nature’s cycle. However, it’s important to plan your trip accordingly, as the blooming period is limited, and accommodations may be in high demand during this time.
Apart from the tea estates, Munnar is renowned for its vast expanse of Neelakurinji. This legendary flower blooms once in 12 years and cover the Munnar mountainscapes with a blue blanket of flowers. Neela means blue in Malayalam language and Kurinji the local name of the flower. It last bloomed in 2018 and is expected to bloom in 2030. It sometimes blooms in small quantities, at that time very few plants flowers.
Neelakurinji is passionately called by botanists as Strobilanthes kunthianum. Found plenty in the Shola grasslands and the Western Ghats and Nilgris in India, Neelakurinji is a bush having clustered branches. The flowering season is from August to November, the peak time being September and October. The flower exhibits a light blue color during the early stages of blooming and turns to a purplish blue colour when it is matured. There are about 300 species of plants that bloom once in 10 to 16 years and out of these 46 are found in India.
When Neelakurinji blooms, no wonder then, the talk of the Munnar town is nothing but the blooming of Neelakurinji. No one wants to miss the chance otherwise you will have to wait more than a decade to see it again. Four to Five lakh people visit Munnar when Neelakurinji blooms.
Though this flower has been a familiar subject for poets and for the hill folk. The Muduvar tribe, which inhabits the Munnar mountain ranges, calculates its age with the blossoming of the Kurinji. In Tamil Sangam poems there are quite a few references to this flower.
Kurinjimala Sanctuary protects the endangered Neelakurinji plant in Munnar. The Save Kurinji Campaign Council organizes campaigns and programs for the conservation of the Kurinji plant and its habitat.